Show Review – International Hardware Fair Cologne

After several years of show cancellations and virtual events, it is taking time for big events to find their groove again. EISENWARENMESSE INTERNATIONAL HARDWARE FAIR welcomed visitors back to Cologne for the first time in four years and people were keen to get back to business.

Back in 2020, EISENWARENMESSE INTERNATIONAL HARDWARE FAIR was dealt a severe blow by the closures and travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, with the show was cancelled just days before the scheduled event. Two years on and the disruption the last-minute cancellation caused was still a source of consternation with some exhibitors but for many they were ready to put it all in the past and get back to normal operations.

While event organisers everywhere are doing their best to overcome the ongoing travel restrictions and logistical issues that are still hounding the global economy, the team behind the show managed to attract strong visitor numbers who were keen to see what was on offer.

Around 25,000 people from 125 countries walked through the doors at Koelnmesse for the four-day event to see the nearly 1400 exhibitors from all aspects of the Hardware industry. Yes, the numbers are down on previous shows but given the circumstances, there was still plenty to be positive about. “The sense of relief at finally being able to meet face to face again after such a long time and do business in person could be clearly felt among all our exhibitors and trade visitors throughout the entire trade fair,” said Oliver Frese, Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse GmbH. “You had the feeling that a big family was getting together again after a long time apart. The trade fair was a success, especially in the context of the ongoing travel restrictions in Asia, the acute energy and raw materials crisis, and the geopolitical situation in many countries. The feedback from our exhibitors about the business contacts they’ve made is positive across the board. Clearly, companies made a strategic decision to attend the EISENWARENMESSE – INTERNATIONAL HARDWARE FAIR – the decision makers were here.”

Despite the event being smaller than previous editions (opinions varied on the reduction of halls), the spectrum of products presented ranged from tools and accessories to building and DIY supplies all the way through to fasteners, fixings and fittings. It was also an appropriate time to launch new products as well, and the team from GESIPA were keen to capitalise on the situation.

“Despite the still ongoing Corona pandemic, the date of the International Hardware Fair in September 2022 was a stroke of luck for GESIPA, as it provided an ideal platform for the successful launch of the new Birdie riveting tool, and the team was particularly pleased to be nominated for EISEN 2022,” explained Andrea Lawitschka, GESIPA Marketing Services Team Leader. “On the first three days of the fair, especially on Monday, you almost felt like you were back in the old trade fair days. The entire GESIPA stand staff had a lot to do the whole day, everyone was in top form, had a lot of fun and of course they were pleased about the numerous trade visitors from home and abroad. At the same time, there were also many good conversations with exhibiting CAS members and stand neighbours and despite the, let's call it challenging times, most of the people we talked to were in a predominantly positive mood.”

GESIPA were one of the nominees for the coveted EISEN Award that was presented in cooperation with the Zentralverband Hartwarenhandel (ZHH). From the over 50 innovative products that were submitted, the jury selected this year's three winners from Picard, SOLA-Messwerkzeuge and ToughBuilt. Picard’s carpenter’s tool, the AluTec hammer, boasts a unique combination of aluminium and steel, which provides previously unattainable ergonomics. The second winning entry was the Go! SMART measuring tool by SOLA-Messwerkzeuge which brings the analogue and digital worlds together and fulfils the functions of a spirit level, an inclinometer and a protractor in a piece that is just 8cm long. The final EISEN Award winner for 2022 was ToughBuilt with its Scraper Utility Knife. The patented knife allows users to switch between a utility knife and a scraper with the flick of a thumb, a true two-in-one.

Innovation is a key thing for any exhibitor to display and Wolfgang J. Kirchhoff, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the EISENWARENMESSE – International Hardware Fair was pleased by how much was evident at the event. “The EISENWARENMESSE – International Hardware Fair Cologne is still the industry’s number-one event, where most of its innovations are presented. It’s the trade fair with the strongest international profile, even though many visitors and exhibitors from Asia have been unable to attend due to the pandemic,” explained Kirchhoff.

While economic uncertainty remains a concern for businesses across the globe, many people at the fair were optimistic about general trade conditions. Dr Peter Wüst, Managing Director of the German Retailers’ Association for Home Improvement, Building and Gardening (BHB e.V.) said, “I’m delighted to be at the International Hardware Fair. The event is absolutely vital for maintaining business relationships face-to-face in this period of crisis. Despite the difficult times we find ourselves in, I’m picking up a sense of optimism about the future from the people I’ve been talking to.”

Of course, it isn’t just about innovations and the products at the show – although they are obviously a drawcard. Issues surrounding sustainability continue to be a prominent theme and many were keen to explain their credentials, including tool manufacturer Wolfcraft. “At Wolfcraft, we don’t just focus on the product. Instead, we look at the bigger picture in terms of sustainability and the customer journey as well as our products,” said Stefan Weigel, Executive Director/CMO at Wolfcraft. “The EISENWARENMESSE – International Hardware Fair is a great opportunity for me to explain this wide-ranging approach to visitors, so I’m very happy to be able to take advantage of this platform. It’s a source of potential that we, as suppliers of branded products, will continue to draw on in the future.”

So, while businesses are planning ahead and looking to the future, people won’t have to look too far in advance for the next event. A new show, International Hardware Fair Italy - powered by EISENWARENMESSE, will be held on 5-6 May, 2023 at Fiera di Bergamo. A major international event for the hardware sector that will be held in Italy in odd years, alternating with International Hardware Fair Cologne. The first edition of International Hardware Fair Italy will be a great event for the Italian and European market, especially for those looking to capitalise on the off years in between Cologne shows. The international event is hoping to attract professionals from across the hardware sector for two days of meeting and discussion and has the support of the main Italian and European associations. 

Cologne will continue to have its chance to shine and bring people from across the industry together when the next EISENWARENMESSE – International Hardware Fair Cologne returns again from 3-6 March, 2024.